Gut health has recently become a hot topic, and for good reason. It can tell you more about your general health than you’d expect.
Your gut microbiome refers to the trillions of bacteria and other microbes living in your body, mainly the large intestine. This gut microbiome contains a wide variety of species, some good some bad. These bacteria influence many systems, in particular the central nervous system which includes the brain and spinal cord. Because of this communication, our gut has even been thought of as our “second brain.” And about 90 percent of serotonin (the neurotransmitter popularly associated with happiness) is made in our gut.
As we might expect then, growing research has shown that a dysregulation of gut bacteria can cause health problems. Everything from our immune system to our mental health can be linked to our gut microbiome. Research has shown a link between low serotonin levels, depression and gut bacteria.
Other studies are even connecting heart problems with poor gut diversity. Although there is a large population of bacteria in our gut, there are good guys and bad guys. Having too many of the bad guys will crowd out the good guys, so we want to keep a healthy population of the good guys to keep our gut and bodies balanced.
One of the best ways to keep the good guys flourishing is to consume prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotics feed the good guys and are found in a variety of plant foods. Some good sources include onions, garlic, leeks, unripe bananas, and asparagus. Probiotics are the actual live bacteria that keep you healthy and are found in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, and kimchi.
Eating a diet high in plant-based foods and fiber, limiting refined sugars and processed foods, and reducing stress and getting adequate sleep are other ways to live your way to a happy gut.
Courtney Susskind obtained her master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from the University of Miami. She has a passion for helping others live a healthier and happier lifestyle through food and behavior modifications. For nutrition consultations and further information, you can contact Courtney at email@example.com or follow her on Instagram @livewellwithcourt.